Stella Yuna Kim: Skating Champion - Faith and Love

By Vineworker

Dur­ing the Win­ter Olympics this past Feb­ru­ary (2010), a fig­ure skater from South Korea wowed the judges so much that she not only won the gold medal, she also broke the world record for the high­est score ever in such a com­pe­ti­tion. Peo­ple were awestruck by the beauty and per­fec­tion of her skills, but many peo­ple also noticed that just before she began her rou­tine she made the sign of the cross and bowed a moment in silent prayer.

Her name is Yuna Kim, and she has been skat­ing since she was five years old, but she only became a Catholic about a year and half before win­ning the gold medal. Let's take a look at her story.

Yuna was born Sep­tem­ber 5, 1990. When she began skat­ing, it was just for fun at her mother's prompt­ing. Two years later, at age seven, a skat­ing coach approached her mother and said that Yuna had the tal­ent to become a world-​​class skater. She began train­ing, and devel­oped quickly as a qual­ity skater. She loved the ele­gance and chal­lenge of fig­ure skating.

At age 12 she became the youngest per­son ever to win the South Korean Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onship, and became an instant celebrity in her coun­try. She began com­pet­ing inter­na­tion­ally at age 14 and won sec­ond place at sev­eral junior world competitions.

Train­ing in any sport is hard, as every­one knows. In order to con­tinue improv­ing Yuna had to spend many long hours alone on the ice and in other types of train­ing. Her mother accom­pa­nied her and gave her emo­tional sup­port, but Kim had to give up the friends and nor­mal social life that most teens enjoy. There were many times when she felt very lonely.

She con­tin­ued to improve her skat­ing skills, and when she was 15 she won the 2006 World Junior Fig­ure Skat­ing Championships.

So, when did Yuna start to become inter­ested in the Catholic faith? Appar­ently it was a slow process, but mainly due to the influ­ence of her long­time physi­cian, Dr. Cho, who is a fer­vent Catholic. Doc­tor Cho runs a med­ical sports clinic, and he has many Catholic vis­i­tors at his clin­ics, includ­ing Catholic nuns. From what we could gather, Yuna and her mom were very impressed by the kind­ness and love that the nuns showed to every­one. They began to ask ques­tions about the Catholic faith.

Yuna's trips to the doc­tor were pretty fre­quent, because high level skat­ing is very tax­ing on the body. Kim had begun to suf­fer injuries to her knees and feet since 2005.

Dur­ing the 2006-​​2007 sea­son, Yuna's pain increased and she was forced to with­draw from the South Korean Cham­pi­onships. She was diag­nosed with a her­ni­ated disc in her lower back in Jan­u­ary 2007.

Yet, in spite of her injury Yuna decided to com­pete in the 2007 World Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships, and appar­ently this was where her inter­est in the Catholic faith also took a step for­ward. The nuns had given her mother a small holy medal to pin on Yuna's skat­ing out­fit. Because of the back injury and all the pain asso­ci­ated with it, Kim was not expected to do well, but she did much bet­ter than expected. She placed third over­all and even broke a world record for the most amount of points ever awarded in one aspect of the com­pe­ti­tion, the short program.

Kim and her mother were amazed at the results, but some­thing else was hap­pen­ing.
They were becom­ing fas­ci­nated by the per­sonal love of Jesus, and the spir­i­tual beauty of Mary, Jesus's mother.

The lone­li­ness of train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion had made Kim long for a close friend. And the pres­sure of hav­ing to always per­form at her best had begun to make her see the uncon­di­tional love of Christ and Mary as some­thing very beau­ti­ful. She didn't have to be a world cham­pion to be loved by Christ and Mary. She didn't have to be any­thing at all. She sim­ply had to allow her­self to be loved.

She and her mother asked to receive instruc­tions on the Catholic faith. They were both bap­tized in May 2008. The priest who gave them instruc­tions said he was very impressed by Yuna's hunger for the faith and the joy she found in it. He said she absorbed every aspect of the Catholic faith that he taught her with an enthu­si­asm and purity that deeply impressed him.

Yuna was already a super­star in South Korea, so the news of her becom­ing
Catholic made head­lines. In Korea, Catholics often choose a new name when they are bap­tized. Yuna chose "Stella," which means, "star." Not because she wants to be a Hol­ly­wood star, but because "Stella Matutina" and "Stella Maris" are names for Mary. They mean Mary, the morn­ing star, and Mary, the star of the sea. "Morn­ing star" refers to Mary as the star in morn­ing sky of human his­tory who shows us the beauty of the com­ing dawn. The dawn is her son, Jesus, who brought God's love to the world. Mary is called "star of the sea" because Mary's love can help guide us to Jesus and to heaven in the midst of the trou­bled seas of this life.

Yuna, or Stella, has a very strong devo­tion to Mary. She loves her purity and good­ness. Since her bap­tism she wears a rosary ring, which many peo­ple con­fuse with an engage­ment ring. It is not an engage­ment ring. It is just a reminder that helps her pray with Mary. In fact this month, Octo­ber 2010, Yuna par­tic­i­pated with the bish­ops of Korea in a cam­paign to explain the rosary to peo­ple in Korea, since so many peo­ple were fas­ci­nated by her ring.

Stella has explained that her Catholic faith has given her a new­found peace. She said that at her bap­tism she felt great con­so­la­tion and relief, know­ing that she had God's love, and she promised that from then on she would pray before enter­ing the rink.

If you have watched Yuna per­form, you know that she has kept that promise.
Right before her Olympic per­for­mance mil­lions of peo­ple around the world watched make the sign of the cross and spend a short moment in prayer. Some view­ers say that almost with­out think­ing they made the sign of the cross too, fas­ci­nated by the spir­i­tual beauty of this young girl.

If you have some time, watch one of Yuna's per­for­mances on Youtube. You will be impressed by the beauty and grace with which she per­forms. And know­ing that she is also per­form­ing with con­fi­dence in God's love adds a deeper dimen­sion to her beauty.

Let's pray that Stella con­tin­ues to live a strong Catholic faith, and con­tin­ues to help other peo­ple dis­cover God's love by her exam­ple. In her own way, Stella is also a "morn­ing star" like Mary, who points us toward Jesus. And that's prob­a­bly the best star any of us can be.

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yuna kim, Skating Champion, Win­ter Olympics